JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Tenured faculty at the University of North Florida will now be required to undergo performance reviews every five years in response to a new state law.
UNF’s Board of Trustees voted Monday to implement post-tenure review.
“Good luck hiring people...they’re not going to come,” said someone in the audience of the board meeting as faculty members walked out after the measure was passed.
Faculty members are worried the review process will effectively gut tenure protections, hurting academic freedom and the quality of public higher education in Florida.
“The hostility of the environment, the lack of academic freedom…that will drive people away from Florida, and it will not drive the talent that we’re looking for here,” said Tobias Huning, who is president of United Faculty of Florida at UNF. He’s also an associate professor of management at UNF’s business school.
Talks between the administration and the faculty union came to a standstill last week over language requiring tenured faculty to be judged against their peers. Huning said it isn’t a fair way to evaluate professors’ work and will create a toxic environment.
The university president said last week the administration didn’t have the authority to make the changes the union wanted, saying the changes are about complying with state law, not targeting or purging professors.
“Post-tenure review is not a concept that was initiated by UNF; it is a legal obligation with which we must comply,” UNF president Moez Limayem wrote in a letter to faculty.
When asked what the new policy’s effect will be on academic freedom, Huning, said, “It’s gone...because anybody who simply doesn’t like you can fabricate reasons now, and then you’re gonna have to fight it.”
More than 1,500 people have signed a petition against the changes at UNF.
“We’re very concerned that our faculty feel comfortable that they feel appreciated,” said Kevin Hyde, who is the chair of the UNF Board of Trustees.
“This was just one piece of a larger picture of making the university better,” Hyde said. “We’re complying with state law. That’s always a requirement, and I think it’s very healthy for everyone to always to see, to make sure that not only are they performing their jobs, but in the best way for the students.”
Dr. Mike Binder cast the sole “no” vote against post-tenure review. Binder is a professor in the UNF political science department who represents faculty on the UNF Board of Trustees.
“The whole point of tenure is not that you have a job for life, it’s that you’re insulated from political retribution for saying something, for pressing the bounds of knowledge,” Binder said. “Maybe people [will] think twice before they say things.”